A draft of the cannabis bill has been floating around our community generating discussion and consternation. We at HighThailand have taken the approach that it is premature to react dramatically to a draft. However, we are puzzled by the continued artificial attempt to separate the concept of “recreational use” of cannabis from its “health” use. The term “recreational use” has been thrown around a lot, mostly by opponents of cannabis trying to stir up outrage with a concept which to date has been ill defined. A google search defines “recreational” as “activit[ies] done for enjoyment.” Indeed, I smoke weed for enjoyment—but I also do it to relax, unwind, clear my head, destress, and engage with the world. My cannabis health use allows me to enjoy my life. One does not need to use cannabis to understand that health and enjoyment are not mutually exclusive concepts. “Recreation” and “health” are not contradictory concepts but in fact complementary building blocks of a balanced life.
To be fair to the draft’s authors, the bill does not link the term “recreational” to the English definition of the word “recreation”, nor does it cast the concept of “recreational” as the antithesis of “health”. Instead, it defines “recreational” as use by “more than two or three people.” The draft bill thus casts “recreational use” as a mathematical concept—a concept completely removed from health and medicine. This raises several questions: My favorite person to smoke a joint with is Mrs. Mendel—can I continue smoking with her in the privacy of our home? Or must we smoke in different corners of the room? Different rooms? Who will transport the joint between the two of us? Must I avoid other cannabis users when I partake? These will be problematic questions for both users of cannabis as well as those who are trying to enforce an eventual law.
The irony in the bill’s definition of “recreational use” is that it keeps the door open for personal use—something which I applaud—but it closes the door on communal use, an incredibly important element of mental “health use”. Cannabis users often joke that our lounges and events are void of the friction and violence that follows alcohol and alcohol driven functions. But there is truth to this joke. I have neither seen nor heard of friction or violence at a cannabis gathering or event in Thailand. Users and participants of cannabis quickly build bonds, become friends, confidants no matter their background, no matter their place in society or where they hail from. A cannabis user is never alone and never friendless. In both Thailand and throughout the world we have seen painful evidence that one of society’s greatest threat is mental illness generated from loneliness, seclusion, and the invisible confinement of individuals living absent human connection in the great wide open public. Loneliness amongst communal cannabis users is unfathomable. Indeed, the natural societal bonds built between cannabis users—those engaging in the plant communally—are a critical part of the mental health benefits of cannabis use. Communal cannabis users disdain friction and thrive in harmony. The isolation of cannabis users, the seeming aim of the draft bill, is in fact counterproductive to the bill’s aims of promoting health.
There is political consensus that cannabis has a place in society for health purposes. We should not ignore how important this consensus is—or how far society has moved forward in accepting this principle. But there is a difference between accepting a principle and understanding it. There is a difference between tolerating cannabis and being educated, experiencing and appreciating cannabis. A provision which limits cannabis use to one person may in fact be an example of political tolerance for cannabis use—but at the same time it is evidence of a lack of education, and lack of understanding of its communal mental health benefits. We have come far in educating the public on the benefits of cannabis—but there is still so much we must show and teach and explain through example.
The Phuket Cannabis Association has been a great proponent of education and the concept of the health benefits of cannabis. This year’s Phuket Cannabis Cup celebrated the concept of “Holistic Health, Holistic High” focusing on the overall application of cannabis to both physical and mental well-being. A weekend long event celebrated the connection between cannabis, community, and wellbeing through lectures, spiritual events, concerts, food, and art. It was evident that the Phuket Cannabis Association also championed the cannabis community as part of the holistic approach to health and high. Events flowed into human interaction, dialogue, listening, understanding, healing. Indeed, as a participant and attendee I was able to engage with the art, culture and cannabis and feel the comforting, healing effects of being enveloped by our community—of touching friends old and new—of embracing harmony and forgoing friction.
A week prior to the Phuket Cup I participated in the Patya Payap Budtender Cup in Pattaya—an event which had no intentional health link but which nonetheless supported our communal mental health through a gathering celebrating amazing bands, food and cannabis. The event drew a smaller and more localized crowd from the Pattaya and Bangkok areas, but this intimacy, the fact that it drew a crowd of people who already had bonds, who have been through so much together had the same healing effect. A diverse group of individuals with little in common other than a love for cannabis forgoing friction and finding the support and comfort they need amongst their fellow brothers and sisters. Both the intentional focus of the Phuket Cup and the natural lessons from the Pattaya Budtenders Cup are examples of our community putting its best foot forward and showing and sharing with society how cannabis, and specifically communal cannabis use, benefits mental health of the individual.
We at HighThailand are in fact mental health beneficiaries of both cups mentioned above, and the overall engagement with communal cannabis sue. We call friends we have known for less than 18 months brothers, not because we are adapting the slang of another generation, but because we feel akin to our fellow cannabis users. We grow together, we are happy when they succeed, we want to support them when they don’t, and we experience the same support in return. We sit, smoke, listen to each other, listen to music, dance, and repeat. We are not alone—we are not solitaire individuals—we have the confidence and comfort of each other, from our community. Make no mistake about it—this is part of the holistic mental health benefit of cannabis. Indeed, to maximize mental health benefits of cannabis, cannabis should be used with two or three more individuals.
Such mental health benefits cannot really be understood unless experienced. As mentioned above, we applaud the drafting bodies for attempting to come up with a bill which supports cannabis use for health and recognizes that individual private use should be protected. We ask that those same drafters listen to the Thai cannabis community so that they may see and understand the greater mental health benefits of communal cannabis use. We cannot, however, ask the drafters to listen if we ourselves are not open and do not express and broadcast our own experiences. My dear readers, think back over the last 18 months—think of the new friendships—think of the new bonds, personal connections—think of the dreams you have shared—the dreams you have dared to explore. Think of your mental state today versus your mental state prior to legalization, or at least prior to finding your cannabis community. Think of how you have grown to appreciate those around you and to understand and believe in yourself. Can there be any more positive example of mental health, of holistic mental health than through the development and support of our Thai cannabis community?
Eighteen months ago I would not have written this article. I would have been satisfied with the right to sit at home alone and happily smoke a joint of whatever I could get my hands on. But I’ve learned quite a lot over the last eighteen months about cannabis and our community. HighThailand has always focused on supporting the community, supporting local growers, and supporting a sustainable cannabis market. But in the process of covering our community we became emotionally attached to growers, cultivators, and with members of our community who share our principles and goals. My colleagues and I have become better people because of acceptance by and our connections with the Thai cannabis community. We have added mental clarity, mental health, and harmony resulting from engagement with our cannabis community. Our advocacy of mental health through communal cannabis engagement comes from our own direct experiences with our community. As we move into 2024, HighThailand will pivot our focus and will showcase the elements of the Thai cannabis community which have kept us balanced, which have provided invaluable friendship and support, which have opened doors to us, given us a home and showered us with generosity. We will showcase to the world, in a series multimedia events, how our own communal cannabis use has provided therapeutic benefits which have indeed allowed us to enjoy life. We hope to bring our friends, old and new, along for this journey as we broadcast to world the uniqueness of Thai cannabis culture, our love for it, and how it benefits mental health and society as a whole.